Saturday, 22 December 2012

22nd December 2012 - of Sex Lies and Scandal

Nothing to do with Christmas - but then I have gone on record about my views of premature decoration, and am surprised that all those Nigerian spammers have not also decided to suggest medication for my lack of Christmas Globes in addition to comments about my apparently publicly known medical conditions.

No, nothing to do with Christmas, but following a recent Blog post upon Americymru (an excellent website /  for Welsh Pats and Ex Pats if you are not in the know!!), it is more about Christine. Christine Keeler to be exact - and the continuing story of 1963, a scandal that "rocked the government". Oh, it would be an insignificant oversight in the light of modern governmental frailty, but in the sixties the press was at its peak in "investigative journalism" - pre-dating mobile phones, computer dating and Britain's third TV channel BBC2, which would not arrive until 1964, and then only after  delays due to power cuts.

Now, in 2012, Christine is in her 70's, living with her cat and spurning men. After a brief residence in Wales where she thought the fresh air would assist her emphysema she now lives once again in London, estranged from her mother, her two sons and most of the world - still carrying her legacy with her photo sitting upon a chair, apparently naked - though she claims she had her knickers on at the time.

By comparison, the "disgraced"  John Profumo (family motto: Virtue and Work) endured only a brief spell of ignominy. His wife stayed with him until her death in 1998. By 1975 he had been awarded a CBE for his charity work in London’s East End; at Margaret Thatcher’s 70th birthday party he was not only a honoured guest, but he sat next to the Queen. When he died in 2006, aged 91, the great and the good attended his funeral: reputation had been redeemed; his status restored.

But this is about Christine and not Christmas.

But as I cast my mind back to 1963, it is with a more personal recollection. At 9 years old I had only a little interest in politics and world news. This was before "Craven's Newsround" brought current affairs into the minds of minors, with John Craven carefully explaining complex issues into single syllables - I think there is still a need for such a  programme though incessant repeats of Sky News will have a similar affect upon the feeble minded.

No, at 9 years old I was more interested in a family holiday in Portugal. My family had always been inventive in finding holidays that were slightly different. My father's view was that a good holiday was worth saving for and was better than a new three piece suite. He rarely liked the concept of package tours or pre-arranged bookings. 1963 was not different. Gibralta still had open borders with Spain at that time. Flights from London to Gibralta were available and at reduced prices - and as I recall the flight into Gibralta, where the runway extends out into the water and crosses the main road were highly interesting. I vaguely recall the Barbary Apes on the rock - how and when we saw them I do not recall - but see them I did!!

But more memorable was the hire car that we took from Gibralta - and then drove across the whole base of  Spain heading for goodness knows what in the next country. Memorable. yes - because the hire car unfortunately sprung a leak in the radiator. Of course, now  we would call an international roadside assistance with our mobile phone or iGadget. Not in 1963!!  A simpler solution was a regular stop at garages and shops across the whole of Spain to beg for a refill of water. Which in those days, meant doing the polite thing and buying something at each stop !!

My Sister and I drank more Coca Cola from small bottles purchased at roadside stops than I have at any time in my life until 2 litre bottles started marketing at 3 for £3 in the lead up to this Christmas. But this is nothing to do with Christmas !!

The basis of the family holiday in the 60's was that they would last until the money ran out. This would normally mean a couple of days of luxury somewhere, and then downsizing and nurturing resources to ensure the longest period away. It was quite reasonable to expect a two to three week holiday in Portugal.

As we limped across the border into Portugal, our battered car, steam pouring from the bonnet, limped up to the Vasco de Gama hotel - an oasis of luxury in the undergrowth. Swimming pools, Doors that opened automatically except for the large glazing near the dining rooms where uniformed porters held the door open for a 9 year old and called him "sir".  We stayed two days as I recall - only remember the swimming pool and the porters calling me "sir". I was only 9 !

In normal fashion, we  moved on from Fantasy Island into a bed and breakfast hotel/guest house overlooking a glorious beach and deep blue seas. I would have more memories, but it seems that British Newspapers were delivered in Porta de Wherever - l failed to learn to speak Portuguese  though I did play some beach football with some local lads - GOAL!!!  is universal in the Glorious Game .....

Newspapers would not be a problem in a normal family - but mine was a Fleet Street family. As Daily Mail Parliamentary Correspondent and lifelong self made journalist, my father always read every newspaper - our paper boy hated us at home as our one house was the equivalent of a full street of deliveries - I am sure our papershop loved us for the same reason.... We probably paid for his holidays in a real hotel.

But the Newspaper cried out a scandal in the making!!   Early days - perhaps just the day the story broke - I was playing football on the beach and failed to understand the subtleties of the situation, but the political ramifications were clear to my father - and so the holiday was abruptly cut short.

I do not recall - but I am sure that we must have ditched some suitcases and added a barrel or two for spare water in the boot - because I do not recall multiple stops on the way home - I know we drove through the night !! I barely remember the argument at the Spanish Border trying to get back into Gibralta or the flight home..

But I do remember the song we sang as we came home. It was a family tradition to write a holiday song on each of our trips - and this one was no exception - and it was to the tune of "Oh Mr Porter""

I still recall to this day :
"Oh Mr Profumo - What did you do??
We have to leave old Portugal and its all because of you
We have to get back to England 
As Quickly as we can...
Oh Mr Profumo - You are a naughty Man "

So, nothing to do with Christmas - but all to do with Christine.  As she looks after her cat in her later years and looks back upon her life 60 years ago - when as a 17 year old she tried to make her way in the big city -  I feel a little sorry that even in our holiday song - she did not get a mention... but that is the way of sex, lies and scandals

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